On the first Sunday of every month, in an old dismissed factory in Alzano Lombardo (Bergamo, Italy) there is the Factory Market, an interesting craft exhibition which is getting more and more popular.
While I was looking at the ninety exhibitors, suddenly …”I have seen the light”: in front of me, there were tens of eccentric lamps made with old electrical appliances such as cameras, video cameras, and radios.
The designer who created these industrial artworks is Roberto Fontin. He used to floor parquets and make furniture then, one day, just like Eega Beeva, a light bulb shined in his mind, he left his profitable and stable job in order to dedicate himself to wall lamps, bulbs, and cables.
“I’ve always liked cameras, though I’m not a photographer,” Roberto told me while we were in his lab, a location nearby Milan, full of old electrical appliances and weird objects that he found in secondhand shops and flea markets. The very first items transformed in lamps were collectors’ cameras, the Seventies compact cameras, the folding cameras and the well-known Polaroid that many people still have stuck at home. Some of them became wall lamps, others were put on top of a tripod turning into a stem lamp. Sometimes it happens that, during an exhibition or a market, a professional photographer is shocked by Roberto’s creations, just like the cameras had shocked me but, according to the designer, this is a very interesting way to give them new life and prestige, taking them out from drawers where they’ve been abandoned.
His fantasy is not limited just on Polaroid, he puts his hands also on Russian projectors, ammeters, power units, drills. A hair-dryer, he put a bulb on, is now hanging in a hairdresser shop lighting its still working “colleagues”.
Whatever this designer finds that inspires him in the secondhand markets, he takes it in his lab and, sooner or later, will be transformed. I saw a washing machine basket on a wood base that, in a short time, will house a bulb projecting an amazing light game through his holes.
“At the end of the day, surrounded by all these goods” Roberto tells me looking at those old treasures in the lab, “the last half an hour before shutting down, while I’m cleaning and ordering my tools, that’s the right time for me to have the best ideas for combining the different things together.”
The electrical side of these works of art is entrusted to special bulbs that Roberto discovered online. Unfortunately, they come from far away as in Italy they are not produced. Anyway, they are really special: huge drop-shaped bulbs, with different shapes, covertly smoky grey which produces warmer light or chromed-plated on the top.
Roberto started this activity a couple of years ago and his lamps are now getting ahead. Last time he was at the Factory Market, a man came with an old radio and a camera, both of no real value but a strong sentimental one. The man wanted them transformed and so Roberto returned them renovated and brighter than ever.
Text by Eletta Revelli
Photography by Roberto Fontin and Eletta Revelli